The Kuolema [Hivemind Review]

The Kuolema is a piece of interactive fiction created by Ben Jackson.

Cover art for The Kuolema depicts a ship named Kuolema on the sea at night. Subtitle reads, "An Interactive Mystery."


Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Text adventure

Who is it For?

  • Story seekers
  • Any experience level

Required Equipment: Computer with internet, pen & paper. There was also one puzzle that was easier to solve when printed.

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: The game is split into three parts, but in total expect 2-4 hours. Play time depends on how thoroughly you read the story.

Price: free

Booking: play at your leisure


This is a choose your own adventure-style of fiction with puzzle solving needed to advance through each chapter. The game is entirely built with Google Forms. It’s more like a book, meaning there is a lot of reading where you occasionally solve a short puzzle.

The usual Next and Back buttons allow you to move throughout the game and make different choices, if you choose. You will need to make decisions throughout the experience by either selecting a radio button choice or entering a keyword or password in a text field.

Having pen and paper ready is heavily advised as there is so much to keep track of and passwords/ items to remember.

Of note, there is no “save” function, but once a part is completed, the reader is provided with a code that can be used to jump to the start of the next part.

Description and launch page for The Kuolema explains that a vessel is abandoned and adrift in the South China Sea and that you're in a race against time to uncover its mystery and avert a world threatening disaster.

Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction

We found ourselves on an abandoned ship, lost in the South China Sea. We had to find out what had happened and what secret was hidden within the cargo.

At its best, throughout the extensive writing, bold words made it clear what mattered for the game. Map photos also helped to navigate the space. All of it is free to play and you can spend a couple of hours over multiple sessions getting lost in the story.

At its worst, although there were almost too many things to keep track of, I wish there would have been more actual puzzles. The layout of the game made for a lot of unnecessary running back and forth between sites. The reuse of one item felt like an inelegant solution; another puzzle required slight outside knowledge.

The game achieved what it set out to do: Exploring Google Forms as a game tool and pushing the boundaries of its features.

Map of a ship with an indicator of where the player is on Deck 3. Below it are a very options for where the player can go from this location.

Scott Olson’s Reaction

The Kuolema succeeds in using an uncommon storytelling medium (Google Forms?? Waa?) to create an entertaining work of immersive fiction. Strong writing and alluring images create a topical story, making the reader decide the outcome of a weighty moral dilemma, something I do not commonly see from an escape game. However, the puzzles in The Kuolema are a weaker aspect of the experience. While gated well with clear objectives and a clever hint system, the interface becomes tedious when working on multiple objectives. A few unthematic, well-worn escape room tropes detracted from the story and flow. Improving the puzzle design would refine this novel concept into an experience of interest to both lovers of choose your own adventure stories and puzzlers.

Cindi S’ Reaction

Kuolema is a unique, story-driven puzzle game that uses Google Forms in a choose-your-own-adventure-esque format. The story is well-written and integral to the experience, not just a backdrop to string a few puzzles together. From the moment my character was lowered from a helicopter onto the stormy deck of a seemingly abandoned ship, I was invested! Gameplay is simple; make a choice or enter a keyword, click “Next,” and find out what happens. Sometimes I chose incorrectly, but it was easy to go back and make a different decision. The results of incorrect options are often just as fun to read as the correct ones, especially towards the finale. The puzzles scattered throughout the game are fun (although none of them were difficult) and generally well-integrated with the narrative. It can help to take notes on key pieces of information such as items, passwords and locations, especially if you play over multiple days, as I did. I’ve played other games using Google Forms, and this one is by far the best, and definitely worth playing.

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